Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

A weekend of festivals: the good, the bad and the ugly

Last week, an email from an acquaintance set me musing. The email wondered if promoters MCD would end up making more profit from the weekend’s shows in the Phoenix Park with The Stone Roses, Swedish House Mafia and Snow Patrol …

Mon, Jul 9, 2012, 08:56


Last week, an email from an acquaintance set me musing. The email wondered if promoters MCD would end up making more profit from the weekend’s shows in the Phoenix Park with The Stone Roses, Swedish House Mafia and Snow Patrol than their annual Oxegen festival in Punchestown Racecourse, especially given that how the reputation of that event had become sullied by various off-stage events. Some back-of-an-envelope gigamatics followed and I thought that’s what I’d be writing about on Monday morning.

What a difference a Saturday night in a muddy part of the park in the middle of Dublin makes. The off-stage events which have dominated the news agenda since the Swedish House Mafia show (and which will probably ensure a busy Livelive today) mean that the weekend’s three shows, which attracted approximately 45,000 people every night, will forevermore be associated with stabbings and suspected drug deaths rather than the music. There will be fuming and giving out, finger pointing and blame reports, NIMBYisms (the residents will be out in force on this one) and society-is-gone-to-hell-in-a-handcart pronouncements.

Swedish House Mafia onstage in Dublin on Saturday night

The big picture will, as always, be completely overlooked. Because, let’s be honest here, it’s more than just about what happened at a big gig in the Phoenix Park and blaming the promoters for this, as will inevitably happen, misses the point. After all, it’s easier to blame the promoter for not employing x-ray machines or strip-searching everyone who turned up than admit this is a bigger issue.

And it is a bigger issue. Almost every single Saturday or Sunday morning without fail, the radio news broadcasts will carry a story about a stabbing or a serious assault which occured overnight somewhere in the country, usually linked to a row exacerbated by alcohol or drugs. It might be at a house party or a random incident on a city street, but it happens all the time and you never get the same amount of coverage as you’ll see on the newspapers in your local shop this morning.

It’s not just when 45,000 people gather to have a bit of a rave presided over by three Swedes, yet you can already see the band, their music and especially the audience they attract (described as a “younger, more volatile crowd” on Morning Ireland earlier, which could also be applied to the crowd who go to Tayto Park) getting a kicking over this. Perspective means that you need to remember that there were 45,000 people in the Phoenix Park and only a tiny number of idiots were involved in the grim incidents which followed.

But perspective also means that the expression “Oxegen-like behaviour” will be rightly used to describe what happened at the concert on Saturday night. After all, it was the nasty, tense, about-to-kick-off atmosphere in the air due to numerous incidents of anti-social behaviour which finally did for Oxegen in many people’s minds. That’s unfortunately what you get in Ireland when you combine a certain number of elements on a wet weekend in July. It won’t stop the promoters from doing what they do, but it will mean many people will think twice before going to such an event again.

If that wasn’t enough to be going on with for the weekend, the atrocious, muddy state of the site was mentioned in the despatches almost as much as the state of Ian Brown’s voice. Look, it’s Ireland in July and every single field up and down the country is swimming after weeks of non-stop torrential, monsoon rain. Just ask the farmers suffering from silage anxiety as they impatiently wait to get their tractors into action. Just as we’ve seen at Oxegen in the last few years, it seems that open-air festivals in Ireland in July are not a good idea. However, it doesn’t help that the site used for the weekend shows in Dublin happens to be in a marshy part of the park which has always had drainage problems. Add in a couple of nights of 45,000 people stomping around and it’s obvious what was going to happen.

Dublin wasn’t the only city which had a bad weekend when it came to festivals. In London, the Bloc Weekend was shut down amid chaotic scenes and fears of overcrowding. The post-mortem on this one has already began, with the investigation likely to centre on ticketing arrangements for the event. Watching this mess unfold on Friday night on Twitter, the most striking thing was the failure of the organisers to respond immediately to on-the-ground events, allowing all sorts of rumours and conjecture to take flight.

But there were some festivals which passed off without a hitch over the weekend. The inaugural Make A Move hip-hop culture festival in Limerick seems to have been a resounding success with lots of positivity around the weekend’s gigs (I enjoyed Lethal Dialect’s set and heard great things about the return of Scary Eire originators Mek and Ri-Ra to the same stage), block party (Bedford Row never seemed so fly), graffiti jam in the People’s Park and everything else which the organisers shoehorned into a couple of days and nights. We also had a great Banter panel session about Irish hip-hop so big thanks to the panelists Paul Tarpey, Kieran Nolan, Temper-Mental MissElayneous and mynameisjOhn for their words to the wise.

And it wouldn’t be an Irish summer weekend without a shock from the sports fields. Hats off this morning to the fantastic Galway hurlers who saw off Kilkenny yesterday by doing to the Cats what the Cats have been doing to everyone else for so long and bossing them all over the park. Nearly everyone (there’s a man called Nero who had a few quid on them), from this pair of pundits to their own fans gave the Tribesmen a chance going into this (as my own hurling circle know, “feckin’ Galway” have always faltered in my mind when it comes to matches like this), which makes the win all the sweeter. Joe Canning manned up like he’s never done on occasion like this before but, really, the whole team were immense. Kilkenny are now thrown dazed and confused into the quarter-finals to come up with a Plan B. Add in a rampant 14-side Clare team bashing a very poor Dublin side (the hype is well and truly over for the Jackeens-with-hurleys and this dire run might well see Anthony Daly depart the scene) and this year’s hurling championship is now wide open.